The Opposition has joined public efforts aimed at getting the government to overturn a permit it granted to an American company to set up quarrying operations in the Dry Harbour Mountain in St Ann.
The issue came to public attention after environmental advocacy group Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), in a series of tweets, revealed that a last-minute decision was taken to grant the company, Bengal Development Limited/Jamaica World LLC, a permit after it had been previously been denied by the National Planning and Environment Agency (NEPA).
Damaging to the environment
Opposition People’s National Party Spokesperson on Land and Housing, Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns, said the government had erred in issuing the permit and even questioned if the company had any political affiliation.
Frazer-Binns slammed the minister who approved the project overriding the advice of the technocrats, noting that the government needed to explain its actions.
“Bengal’s obligation to pay a J$40 million environmental performance bond, the projected J$635 million Government earning in taxes and the positive impact on employment cannot offset the lasting ecological, hydrological and biodiversity damage to the area,” Senator Frazer-Binns said.
Senator Frazer-Binns further asserted that the Government must answer the following questions:
1. Was a hearing held and if so who were the members of the panel;
2. Did the Minister consider the provisions in the Development Order 2000 which provide that the area must remain in its natural state;
3. Did the Minister consider the views of the residents in and around the community;
4. Did the Minister consider the view of the Forestry Department on the deforestation that would result from such activities;
5. Do any of the directors, shareholders, partners or stakeholders have any connection to the Jamaica Labour Party?
Frazer-Binns urged the Government to learn the lessons from the devastation caused by recent rains and how damage to the environment contributed significantly to this.
“The Dry Harbour area has new emerging and unnamed flora and fauna species presently being studied by our University, and we cannot for money or relationship destroy the uniqueness of this area,” she said.
“Mining/ Quarrying of any kind is one of the most exploitive activities and studies have revealed that it is the single largest contributor to deforestation in Jamaica and deforestation is one of the major causes of landslides,” she added.